ASMP — American Society of Media Photographers

First Small Claims Bill Introduced in Congress

By July 13, 2016 September 12th, 2016 Small Claims Report

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and cosponsor Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) introduced legislation to establish the Copyright Claims Board (CCB) to oversee infringement claims of creators

ASMP’s quest for legislation to create a fair, cost-effective, and streamlined venue in which its members can seek relief for relatively modest copyright infringement claims took an important step forward on July 13th with the introduction of H.R. 5757: Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act of 2016 by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and original co-sponsor, Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA).  Rep.  Judy Chu (D-CA) is expected to introduce her own version of a small claims copyright bill in the near future.  Representatives Jeffries, Marino, and Chu are members of the House Judiciary Committee which has jurisdiction over such legislation.

As expected, H.R. 5757 closely tracks the legislative recommendations contained in the U.S. Copyright Office’s comprehensive and well-received 2013 report entitled “Copyright Small Claims: A Report of the Register of Copyrights.”  It also includes a number of key provisions endorsed by ASMP and other visual artist groups in a white paper they submitted to Congress earlier this year.

Among the provisions set forth, H.R. 5757:

  • creates a Board within the Copyright Office to hear claims that do not exceed $30,000, with adjudicators with experience in copyright law and alternative dispute resolution.
  • provides a less formal, streamlined process where legal representation is optional.
  • in order to satisfy constitutional norms, allows defendants upon receiving notice, to opt out within a certain time frame and choose federal court instead.
  • enables the court to not only decide copyright infringement cases, but contractual issues related to the infringement.
  • empowers the Board to award actual damages, profits, or limited statutory damages.
  • allows defendants to raise all defenses available in federal court, including fair use.

During the forthcoming legislative process, ASMP will urge Congress to adopt additional provisions that ASMP believes are necessary to the overall success of any small claims process.  For example, under H.R. 5757, a photographer or other claimant who is confronted with an uncooperative defendant who refuses to abide by a decision of the Small Claims Board must go the federal court in the District of Columbia to enforce that decision.  This is a major problem for small copyright claimants who live outside the District of Columbia and would be forced to appear and/or retain local counsel to seek enforcement of such a decision. We believe it is imperative that any forthcoming bill must provide that such enforcement actions must not be so limited and should be able to be brought in federal courts more convenient to the claimants.

ASMP looks forward to working with Representatives Jeffries, Marino, and Chu as Congress goes about the critical task of ensuring that the creative works of photographers, illustrators, graphic designers and other visual artists are appropriately protected so that they are incentivized to continue producing works that change how people see their world.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.